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The Last Emperor (The Criterion Collection)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Joan Chen, John Lone, Peter O'Toole
  • Directors: Bernardo Bertolucci
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Anamorphic, Box set, Color, Dolby, HiFi Sound, NTSC, Restored, Surround Sound, THX, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: February 26, 2008
  • Run Time: 163 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (330 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ZM1MIW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,302 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Last Emperor (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • All-new, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro
  • All-new, restored high-definition digital transfer of the extended television version
  • Audio commentary featuring director Bernardo Bertolucci, producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Mark Peploe, and composer-actor Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • The Italian Traveler: Bernardo Bertolucci, a 53-minute film by Fernand Moszkowicz tracing the director's geographic influences, from Parma to China
  • Video images taken by Bertolucci while on preproduction in China
  • The Chinese Adventure of Bernardo Bertolucci, a 52-minute documentary that revisits the film's making
  • A new, 47-minute documentary featuring Storaro, editor Gabriella Cristiana, costume designer James Acheson, and art director Gianni Silvestri
  • A 66-minute BBC documentary exploring Bertolucci's creative process and the making of The Last Emperor
  • A 30-minute interview with Bertolucci from 1989
  • A new interview with composer David Byrne
  • A new interview with Ian Buruma examining the historical period of the film
  • Theatrical trailer
  • A booklet featuring an essay by David Thomson, interviews with production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti and actor Ying Ruocheng, a reminiscence by Bertolucci, and an essay and production-diary extracts from Fabien S. Gerard

Editorial Reviews

Additional Features

Among the finest Western-made movies about the East, Bernardo Bertolucci's epic traces the emergence of modern China through the life of one man. After taking on Italian history in The Conformist and 1900, the director was well placed to tackle the story of Pu Yi (played by John Lone as an adult). The narrative proceeds along two tracks: the emperor's post-Forbidden City existence and his cloistered upbringing. Educated by Scotland's Reginald Johnston (Peter O'Toole, in a role slated for Sean Connery), the monarch develops into a sophisticated, if powerless figure. After taking an empress (Joan Chen) and playing into the hands of the Japanese, Pu Yi ends up a menial member of the People's Republic.

This four-disc special edition honors Bertolucci's vision, starting with restored transfers of the final cut and the 218-minute broadcast edition, the former overseen by Oscar-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. Recorded in 2003 and 2007, the audio commentary features Bertolucci and fellow award recipients Jeremy Thomas, Mark Peploe, and actor/composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (co-composer David Byrne appears in a separate interview). Among the revelations: the film was originally planned as a five-part series, Peploe adapted the screenplay from over 50 books, and the filmmaker admits he now finds some scenes embarrassing. The supplements continue with documentaries about the director's path from Parma to Peking ("The Italian Traveler") and the production ("Bernardo Bertolucci's Chinese Adventure" and "The Southbank Show"), a video diary ("Postcards From China"), and a new featurette ("Making The Last Emperor"). Lest viewers fear these features merely flatter their subject, 1986’s "Adventure" captures Bertolucci pitching a fit on the set (in an attempt to protect his youngest actor from distractions). As lavish as the film it celebrates, this beautifully designed keepsake concludes with the theatrical trailer, two additional interviews (Bertolucci and historian Ian Buruma) and a 96-page booklet. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Product Description

Bernardo Bertolucci s The Last Emperor won nine Academy Awards, unexpectedly sweeping every category in which it was nominated quite a feat for a challenging, multilayered epic directed by an Italian and starring an international cast. Yet the power and scope of the film was, and remains, undeniable the life of emperor Pu Yi, who took the throne at age three, in 1908, before witnessing decades of cultural and political upheaval, within and outside of the walls of the Forbidden City. Recreating Qing-dynasty China with astonishing detail and unparalleled craftsmanship by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti, The Last Emperor is also an intimate character study of one man reconciling personal responsibility and political legacy.

Special Features
* - DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FOUR-DISC SET FEATURES:
* - All-new, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro
* - All-new, restored high-definition digital transfer of the extended television version
* - Audio commentary featuring director Bernardo Bertolucci, producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Mark Peploe, and composer-actor Ryuichi Sakamoto
* - The Italian Traveler: Bernardo Bertolucci, a 53-minute film by Fernand Moszkowicz tracing the director's geographic influences, from Parma to China
* - Video images taken by Bertolucci while on preproduction in China
* - The Chinese Adventure of Bernardo Bertolucci, a 52-minute documentary that revisits the film's making
* - A new, 47-minute documentary featuring Storaro, editor Gabriella Cristiana, costume designer James Acheson, and art director Gianni Silvestri
* - A 66-minute BBC documentary exploring Bertolucci's creative process and the making of The Last Emperor
* - A 30-minute interview with Bertolucci from 1989
* - A new interview with composer David Byrne
* - A new interview with Ian Buruma examining the historical period of the film
* - Theatrical trailer
* - PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by David Thomson, interviews with production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti and actor Ying Ruocheng, a reminiscence by Bertolucci, and an essay and production-diary extracts from Fabien S. Gerard

Customer Reviews

I was extremely disappointed by the transfer/picture quality of the DVD.
S. Fischer
To fully appreciate this film, a familiarity with the history of twentieth century China and the life of Emperor Pu Yi would be greatly helpful.
"casinoman@altavista.com"
This digs deeper into the characters' every emotion through every turmoil, a rarity in the film industry.
David Anderson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

206 of 218 people found the following review helpful By R. Svendsen on January 5, 2009
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
When I was informed that the Blu-ray of the deluxe 4 disc Criterion edition would be missing the extended cut of 218 minutes, I sent an e-mail to Criterion to confirm this information. I have included my e-mail and the response I received from Jon Mulvany at Criterion. I hope this helps in your decision if you are planning to upgrade to the Blu-ray.

Dear Jon,
I have long been a fan of your company and the fine treatment it gives to movies. I originally purchased one of my all time favorite movies, The Last Emperor earlier this year when it was given the deluxe 4 disc treatment, I was thrilled with all of the extras that were included. I was most impressed that both versions of the movie were included for me to chose from. When it was announced that it was coming to Blu-ray, I sold my copy and was waiting to upgrade. I was! I have learned that the 165 min. version is the only one that will be included on the Blu-ray and not the 218 min (my preferred version) cut. WHY, WHY WHY? I am sad to say, that if this is indeed really true, I will not be upgrading to the Blu-ray version since this would in fact be considered a step down from the standard DVD edition. Why give us a great product initially, but then short change us on the Blu-ray upgrade, How sad!!!

Michael Ruiz

Jon's reply is as follows:

Hi Michael,

When we made the special edition dvd of The Last Emperor, we pulled out the stops. The film won nine Academy Awards - from best picture and director to production design and editing. On top of that, it was the first international film of this scale produced in China, and that story in and of itself was extraordinary. In short, all aspects of the film merited attention and discussion.
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113 of 119 people found the following review helpful By dooby on March 25, 2008
Format: DVD
I won't go into the movie itself. It is already well known. It swept the Oscars winning all 9 for which it was nominated, including Best Picture and Best Director. A first for an independent foreign film. It is an historical epic about a culture which until then was little known in the West. It tells the story of China's Last Emperor, a weak and ineffectual man who came to the throne hailed as The Son of Heaven and The Lord of 10,000 Years. His misfortune was to be born at the twilight of Imperial Rule in China. Enthroned as a God, he is cast out by Chinese Republicans, used as a puppet by the invading Japanese, humiliated by the Communists and then "re-educated" to finally become a "useful" member of society - a common gardener. It is the story of one man's tragedy and of an ancient civilisation's painful march into the modern era. A film not to be missed.

This is a truly magnificent set. Criterion at its best. Spread over 4 discs, it includes both versions of the film, fully restored and remastered, plus an additional 6 hours worth of Extras; about everything you could possibly want to know about the film, the director or the central character, Pu Yi.

The roaring controversy however is over the decision to crop the film from its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio down to a narrower 2:1. Vittorio Storaro who was responsible for this has defended his action and Criterion has taken the line that they follow the wishes of the creator. However after having seen the new cropped versions, my preference is still for the older 2.35:1 widescreen.

The newer versions by and large look fine and you won't notice the cropping unless you do a 1 to 1 comparison. However in more than a few scenes, the new visual composition looks askew - awkward and ugly.
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful By S. Yen on October 31, 2008
Format: Blu-ray
This review is not so much a review of the movie or this release in particular. It would seem that there will be no shortage of glorious reviews of this movie and I would just be adding my voice to the gale winds of appraise. I write this to clear up the common mis-perception that the longer cut of this movie is a director's cut.

The previously released longer cut of The Last Emperor which was released on DVD and subsequently labeled as a "Director's Cut" is in fact a longer, made for television mini-series version that was made to satisfy a particular distribution/production deal. Bertolucci himself has gone on record to say that the actual version of the film that he envisioned is the one that went out to theaters, thereby making the shorter "Theatrical Cut" the actual director's cut.

Being the huge fan of this movie that I am, I can't help but want more of this movie, but I'd be lying if I said that the shorter version isn't great just as it is. The movie does not lose any of its magic without the added content. I've given this review a 4 star rating because of the completist in me. If there are two versions of a movie out there. I would enjoy the option of playing the version that I want. Criterion did so with their DVD release, but failed to do it with their Blu-ray release. Welcome to double-dip country. As of this writing, I still have not determined if I shall fall prey to their marketing ploy since I have been waiting so long for a good transfer of this film.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Byron on August 21, 2010
Format: Blu-ray
This is not a rating of the film, which is excellent, but of this particular edition.

Unfortunately Criterion fell into the same trap that the producers of the previous "Apocalypse Now" DVDs did. They allowed Vittorio Storaro, the original cinematographer, to tamper with the widescreen image. Storaro has been on a crusade for the last few years to advocate 2.00:1 as the most desirable widescreen aspect ratio. This is fine if applied to new productions but, disastrously, he wants to demonstrate his passion for this by going back and chopping up movies he worked on in years past. Despite whatever care he may have taken in this project, it is painfully obvious in many scenes that some of the screen image has been cropped from the sides. I compared this to the scenes in their original ratio of 2.35 and there is significant information missing. In tight scenes inside cars you often lose portions of people seated on either side of the picture. The worst for me, though, was what happened to a couple of the breathtaking scenes where the child emperor is viewing the large assembled crowd of his subjects. In the original framing you can see the complete perfectly symmetrical formations filling the screen and perfectly tapering off right at the edges of the picture. In this version chunks of that image are chopped off on either side and a lot of the power and beauty of the scene is diminished.

I had been eagerly anticipating this release but the butchering of the image took all of the joy out of it for me. Even though other aspects of the package such as the extras are very nice and well done, I ended up selling off my copy
I'm surprised and disappointed that Criterion let something like this happen.
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Topic From this Discussion
Subtitles
It sure doesn't look like it.. nor any English subtitles, either. What an oversight!!!
Sep 8, 2008 by Jaycee |  See all 2 posts
How many pages is the booklet?
It's around 85 pages, I believe. Plenty of great articles! A good read!
Mar 19, 2008 by cybergel78 |  See all 4 posts
Director's cut?
Yes, according to Criterion's website, it has both the theatrical and the extended versions of the film. see http://criterion.com/asp/release.asp?id=422
Dec 16, 2007 by emergo |  See all 2 posts
If you like the movie, then get the book Twilight in the Forbidden City Be the first to reply
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